Birmingham Rockets’ Men claimed a hard-fought overtime win against a stubborn Nottingham Hoods side at Wildcat Arena on Saturday evening.
Rockets were led by an inspired Sam Toluwase performance, with the big man recording 45 points and 15 rebounds in one of the standout performances of the NBL Division One season so far.
Perhaps just as importantly as the rest of his stat line, Sam got up well to block what would have been a game winner for Nottingham with just seconds remaining on the clock to force the game into overtime.
Ronald Oberia and captain Martyn Gayle were Rockets’ other standout performers on the night, both putting up 20 points; with Gayle chipping in with 6 assists to help the team over the line.
The contest started evenly with neither side able to establish much of an advantage in the early exchanges with a late Karl Teesdale layup cutting Nottingham’s advantage to one by the end of the first with the scores set at 24-23.
The back-and-forth nature of the game became a theme of the evening with Oberia putting Rockets ahead two minutes into the second courtesy of a couple of converted free-throws which were swiftly followed by a Teesdale three and a Jordan Dawes layup as Rockets looked to impose themselves on proceedings by opening up a five-point advantage, 35-30.
Our hosts continued to battle back, trying to reduce the deficit as both sides traded baskets until an Oberia three saw Rockets’ advantage grow to seven – the largest margin in the contest up until that moment, 47-40.
Undeterred by this latest setback, Nottingham struck back with a run of their own; with a frenzied fifty second spell of strong defence and aggressive fast break plays sandwiched between a made free throw reducing Rockets’ lead to just two, 47-45.
Our hosts would keep up this newfound momentum until halftime – stunning Rockets to take a one point lead into the interval, 52-51.
Nottingham came out in the third determined to stay on the front foot, quickly extending their lead to six (60-54) as Rockets struggled to get going on the offensive end at the start of the quarter.
A wave of personnel changes followed as Coach Rodrigues looked to stem the bleeding, but our hosts were relentless in continuing to push; sinking a three to open up an eight point lead, 63-55.
Gayle hit back instantly with a crucial pair of threes in quick succession to reduce the deficit and swing the momentum back in Rockets’ favour with the deficit now just two points.
This wave of positivity was wiped out almost as quickly as it had been established, however, as Nottingham roared back once again with a 6-0 run of their own to reestablish their eight-point lead, 69-61.
Gayle once again led the Rockets resistance on his way to a 12-point quarter – finishing the scoring for the period with a pair of smartly taken finishes at the basket to whittle our hosts’ lead to just one, 75-74.
Rockets continued this late momentum at the start of the fourth, storming to a 82-75 lead with Oberia and Toluwase spearheading the charge.
Nottingham continued to battle back, with Gayle hitting another trademark deep three to keep the lead at six despite out hosts’ best efforts.
With just two minutes to play, Nottingham put a run of their own together, with Joshua Guddemi leading the fightback as the visitors opened up a narrow one point lead of their own with just 90 seconds to play, 93-92.
A Toluwase three and traded baskets saw a tense finale finish level at 95 each as the game headed for overtime.
After continuing to trade baskets at the start of the additional period, Toluwase took over to put the game beyond a Nottingham side who were finally unable to muster a response having left everything on the floor during regulation time.
The win extends our fantastic start to the season, with Rockets chasing down the league leaders with four wins and one defeat from our opening five NBL Division One outings.
Come and get behind us this Saturday as we welcome Essex Rebels (also 4-1) to Nechells Wellbeing Centre for a 7:30pm tip.